Iago Essay, Research Paper
In the historical tragedy Othello by William Shakespeare there is a great show of hate and dislike toward Othello by Iago. Why does Iago have such hate for the Moor? Through analyzing Iago’s character the answer to this question can be found. Iago develops hatred toward Othello for a variety of reasons. Not only is Othello dark skinned, but he also did not give the lieutenancy to Iago. Iago suspects that Othello slept with his wife, Emilia, and he also suspects Cassio of doing the same. Another reason for Iago’s resentment of Othello is the fact that Iago loves Desdemona. It is not a love that is filled with lust that Iago possess for Desdemona but a love that feeds upon the jealousy of suspecting Othello and Emilia of sleeping together. Iago’s two-sided nature is clearly depicted throughout the play as his malicious plan against Othello unfolds. One of the most compelling reasons for Iago’s hatred of Othello is depicted in the first scene of the play, when Iago expresses his jealousy of Cassio. Iago is a non-commissioned officer who is experienced and ambitious. Instead of appointing Iago who had plenty of experience on the battlefield, Othello appoints “a great arithmetician, one Michael Cassio, a Florentine . . . that never set a squadron on the field” (1.1.19-22). Michael Cassio was more of an intellectual type, a book learner, and a student of military science. Iago only proves good at fighting, whereas Cassio has the tactical knowledge to effectively lead and win in battle. To make matters worse, Cassio is also a foreigner, from Florence, and he is of higher status and family name than Iago. All of these things combine to magnify Iago’s hatred of the Moor. Iago carefully planned his future by persuading “three magnificoes to use their influence for his promotion . . . only to learn that his old commander, for whom he had repeatedly gone into battle, had given the so-much-desired lieutenancy to another” (Draper 146). Iago served his commander well for many years and felt that he deserved a reward for his services. Being a veteran of long experience, Iago knew that in a few years “his active career will be over and his occupation gone unless he can advance himself to something less strenuous than soldiering in the field” (Draper 145). To any sensible man, such a plan was not only an ambition but also a necessity for future life. It was a known fact that “old soldiers were not pensioned or rewarded, and lived on their families . . . or sank to utter beggary” (Draper 145). Iago was well aware that such a future awaited him, unless he could advance himself and gain the lieutenancy. Surely, here was a very compelling and reasonable motive for Iago’s hatred of Othello. Because of his ambition for the lieutenancy, Iago connives a very intricate plan to sink Cassio. Iago cannot tolerate to see Cassio hold his position. He even says that Cassio has “a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly” (5.1.20-21). Instead of making himself rise to the lieutenancy by legitimate means, he tries to lower others around him. Iago is like “ugliness [which] cannot tolerate beauty” (Goddard 462). He must drag down the good because it is much easier than rising. Iago plans to destroy Cassio when he says to the audience that “with as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio” (2.1.185-186). A spider wraps, then puts poison in its prey. Iago’s poison is his lies, which he uses to trick everyone, including Cassio. Knowing that Cassio does not possess a very high tolerance to alcohol, Iago plans on getting Cassio intoxicated. He tells Roderigo, a man who is deeply in love with Desdemona and thinks Iago will help him gain Desdemona’s love, that Cassio is “rash and very sudden in [anger], and haply may strike at you: provoke him that he may” (2.1.290-291). Cassio becomes angry and very susceptible to fighting when he drinks too much. Iago plans to get Roderigo to provoke Cassio to fight and cause a commotion; as a result, Cassio loses his temper and strikes Montano. When Othello asks Iago about the incident, Iago testifies against Cassio, but “his testimony is all the more damning because it seems to come so reluctantly, to be so understated” (Hayes 56). This incident makes everyone believe that Iago wants the best for Cassio; however, it also intensifies Othello’s anger when he tells Iago that his “honesty and love doth mince this matter, making it light to Cassio” (2.3.250-251); as a result, Othello removes Cassio from his position as lieutenant, and Iago receives the lieutenancy. In order to get revenge against Othello, Iago convinces Cassio to go to Desdemona because “our general’s wife is now the general” (2.3.315-316). He tells Cassio to “importune her help to put you in your place again” (2.3.319-320). Iago convinces Cassio that if he goes to Desdemona she will help him regain his lieutenancy; however, it is all part of an intricate plan to make it seem as if Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair, so that he can get his revenge on Othello. Iago tells the audience that when Cassio “plies Desdemona to repair his fortunes, and she for him pleads strongly to the Moor. I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear, that she repeals him for her body’s lust” (2.3.355-358). By getting Cassio to go to Desdemona Iago plans to make Othello suspicious that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. Iago takes her goodness and virtue and uses it against her, and no matter how much she tries she loses her honest place with the Moor. Iago causes Othello to become suspicious of Cassio and Desdemona. By putting thoughts into Othello’s mind, Iago creates this suspicion and jealousy in Othello. Iago uses very clever means. By pretending to only be curious of Cassio and Desdemona’s relationship, he arouses Othello’s suspicion. Othello asks Iago repeatedly for “ocular proof” (3.3.412). Planning to show Othello this proof, Iago plants the handkerchief that Othello had given Desdemona, in Cassio’s bedroom. Iago not only tells Othello about the handkerchief, but he also tricks Cassio into talking about Bianca, while making Othello think that Cassio is talking about Desdemona. Therefore, Othello conspires with Iago to kill Cassio and Desdemona, leading to the death of Desdemona and the injury of Cassio. Hatred for the Moor is further intensified by Iago’s suspicion of Othello sleeping with his wife, Emilia. Iago states that he hates the Moor because it is thought abroad that twixt my sheets he has done my office [wife] (1.3.416-417). Iago believes the lusty Moor hath leaped into [his] seat [cuckolded him] (1.3.213-214). He doesn+t know if it is true, but he is suspicious, which is enough to feed his resentment of Othello. Iago feels the same type of resentment for Cassio because “Cassio too is to be suspected with Emilia” (Hayes 61). What also motivates Iago+s hatred of Othello is his love for Desdemona, “not out of absolute lust [for Desdemona] . . . but partly led to [feed] his revenge” against Othello, because he suspects the Moor of having an affair with his wife, Emilia (2.1.210-212). Iago is motivated by his hate for dark skinned people. He uses many racist remarks against Othello. During one of the few times he actually reveals his true identity before putting on the mask of Janus, the Roman god who is the guardian of portals and who has two faces, he reveals his hate for Othello when he talks to Brabantio, a senator and father of Desdemona. He tells Brabantio that “even now, now, very now, an old black ram [Othello] is [coupling with] your white ewe [Desdemona]” (1.1.94-95). His hatred for Othello and his blackness is what leads him to tell Brabantio that his daughter has married the Moor. This angers Brabantio who did not want his daughter to marry a black man. There are so many motives for Iago’s hatred, but his will to destroy eventually eats up the reason for destroying. Iago is able to find Othello’s tragic character flaw, which is his gullibility and susceptibility to believing and trusting in what others tell him. Othello is also so filled with pride over himself that he becomes an extremely easy target for Iago’s sinister plans. Iago feeds upon man’s weaknesses, “man’s destructive insecurity, his inability to know anything surely, and his fatal, necessary willingness to trust appearances” (Hayes 61). By analyzing his knowledge of Othello’s weaknesses, Iago develops a sinister plan for Othello’s demise. Many things, including his hatred of dark skinned people and his belief that Othello cuckolded him, feed Iago’s motivation. He is also driven by his love for Desdemona and the fact that he did not receive the lieutenancy. All of these things combine to form a very solid line of hate toward Othello, which eventually leads to Othello’s downfall. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. “Othello, the Moor of Venice.” Literature. Eds. James H. Pickering and Jeffery D. Hoeper. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997. 1257-1336. Goddard, Harold C. The Meaning of Shakespeare. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1966. 455-492. Hayes, Anne L. Lovers Meeting. Carnegie Series in English-Number Eight. Pittsburgh: The Department of English Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1964. 53-67. Draper, John W. The Othello of Shakespeare’s Audience. New York: Octagon Books, Inc., 1966. 136-165. Elliott, G. R. Flaming Minister. New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1965. 34-71.